Since 2008 Emory University Libraries has been digitizing thousands of books, many of which are rare, fragile, or otherwise difficult to access. Although they can be discovered through the library catalog, their online presence as digital collections has not previously been showcased. Readux provides a platform to explore and engage with these visually rich and diverse materials including 19th century African American literature and travel guides, early Northern European emblem books, and over 1,200 yellowback novels.

Readux provides multiple layers of access to these collections. All volumes support Zotero citation harvesting and may be downloaded or read in a browser as PDF documents. The text (uncorrected OCR, in most cases) can be exported to Voyant for web-based text analysis. For many volumes, there is also page-level access that provides a page-turner reader with deep-zoom capacity. These volumes can be identified in browsing and search using the “Read Online” filter.

In addition to a reading environment, Readux also provides an annotation platform for volumes with page-level access. Readux content is, of course, compatible with external annotation tools such as hypothes.is and AnnotateIt, for users who prefer to store annotations elsewhere. Future versions of Readux will make it possible to export a book with annotations as a digital critical edition.

Readux is the product of ongoing collaboration between several departments including the Library Software Engineering Team, the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, the Large Scale Digitization Initiative and includes materials from the Robert W. Woodruff Library and Pitts Theology Library. A complete list of contributors can be found in the Credits.

Project History

In 2011, Alice Hickcox proposed a project to do something more with the collection of yellowback novels that had been digitized, proposing that we could outsource correction of the OCR and connect that collection with the overlapping materials in the Emory Women Writers Resource Project.  The project was soon expanded in scope include all of the digitized book materials and to support researchers through the addition of annotation functionality.  The project was branded “Readux”, punning on the terms of reading redux and user experience.  The original Readux project was shelved in spite of significant technical achievements due to shifts in Emory Libraries’ priorities.

In 2013, Jesse P. Karlsberg came to the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship and the Emory Libraries Software Engineering Team requesting support for a digital critical edition of the Original Sacred Harp based on digitized facsimiles and rich annotations. The team saw this as an opportunity to revive the Readux project and make all of the digitized volumes available for annotation and research. Work on Readux resumed in March 2014. Karlsberg’s project is an excellent test case for annotation functionality since it requires annotation of text, images, and footnotes that include images, audio and footnotes.